Print Management

Written by Stephanie Bilberry
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The printed word came into being a lot earlier than most of us realize. Some estimates cite examples of printing during China's Chang Dynasty in around 1766 BC. Examples for this era were all rather primitive wood blocks. For many centuries though, printing was an elaborate, painful process that catered to a relatively small section of the population. Only the very privileged few ever learned to read or write, never mind get to read something that had been printed!

Then the printing world moved on to the Gutenberg press in 1440. Gutenberg gave the world a printing method that was much faster and far more versatile. It revolutionized printing, but not as much as the next stage of print evolution; with today's laser printers we have total spontaneity and total freedom in print. We've come a long way.

Enter the Information Age

We now live in what has come to be known as the Information Age. Never before has the printed word played such a huge part in the lives of human beings everywhere. All printing now depends on computers, from the very first stages of concept, to when printed matter hits the streets.

With the advent of the personal computer, each of us can have literally thousands of years' worth of accumulated knowledge at the tip of our fingertips every day. It is now almost as easy to set up a printing business as it is to read the printed word. As a result, many larger businesses and organizations are setting up their own print shops, for reasons of economy and in order to have more control over the process.

Another revolution has been taking place though; we can even pass on information without having it printed at all, now that so much of our life actually takes place in cyberspace. There is also another dimension to the process of computerization. The Gutenburg press was considered to have sparked the Protestant Reformation. This in turn led to Western democracy as we know it, and all because of the resulting information revolution that came about because of the new ease of printing.

Further Changes Afoot

Some experts are now predicting yet another type of revolution. The Internet, and blogging, which is personal daily publishing to the Internet, is for the first time putting the power of communication in the hands of the common man. For the first time, the power of the elite to control communication is being seriously eroded.

Despite the computer though, books still are, and probably always will be, a very special way of passing on knowledge. Around ten years ago, when many of us were just getting to grips with the Internet, some people wondered aloud if the printed word wasn't destined to be consigned to the history museums. It hasn't happened. Even those of us who now spend most of our waking hours at the computer still treasure books and love to collect them.

Where it was once a specialized industry with highly centralized resources, the print industry has been transformed with the advent of computers. It is now possible for just about anyone to learn the basics of print management. It's a relatively simple matter of acquiring an appropriate software package and learning how to use it.

Now every stage of print production is controlled by a computer and the necessary software. Printing was once a highly skilled and labor intensive industry; while skills are still important, the use of software can ensure that certain basic standards are met despite the possible lack of skills on the part of operatives. Instead of those outdated skills, workers in the printing industry are now required to know about such concepts as how a laser printer works, about fonts and special computer languages used just for printing such as Adobe PostScript and PDF, Hewlett-Packard PCL, IBM AFP/AFPDS, Xerox Metacode, DJDE, and XES, and others.

Software to Make It All So Easy

Print management software is now in common use in just about every office, from the smallest to the largest, and many companies have several different types of software. People who will never work in the print industry will learn to use print management software as a part of their job, whatever that may be. We are all competing to be able to communicate more perfectly with less requirement for skills; software developers are responding to that demand in style. The most successful company of the moment is undoubtedly the company that has become adept at mastering new print and communication technology.

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